Pituitary insufficiency as a side effect after radiosurgery for pituitary adenomas: the role of the hypothalamus.

Guenther C. Feigl, Karin Pistracher, Andrea Berghold, Michael Mokry

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37 Scopus citations


Causes of pituitary insufficiencies as a side effect of Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) following irradiation of the hypothalamopituitary axis are still under debate. In an investigation of pituitary insufficiencies after GKS, the authors' main focus is on what role can be attributed to the hypothalamus with regard to endocrinological changes in hypothalamopituitary function following GKS. A total of 108 patients consecutively treated between April 1992 and July 2003 were included in this retrospective study. All patients had undergone either transsphenoidal or transcranial surgery prior to GKS. The spot dosimetry method was used to determine doses delivered to structures of the hypothalamopituitary axis. For statistical analyses, endocrine insufficiency and deterioration in pituitary function were defined as a decrease in hormonal blood levels below the normal range for 1 or more anterior pituitary lobe hormones. Additionally, an analysis of the rate of patients requiring hormone replacement therapy after GKS due to new endocrinopathies was performed. Complete patient records of 61 male and 47 female patients with a mean age of 51.9 years (range 9.1-81.2 years) were available for our investigation. The overall tumor control rate was 97% and the endocrinological cure rate was 61.2%. Mean treatment doses in patients with and without new endocrine insufficiencies (shown as with/without insufficiencies and followed by probability values) were as follows: 1.3/0.8 Gy to the hypothalamus(p = 0.2); 2.2/1.6 Gy to the median eminence (p = 0.1); 6.5/4.1 Gy to the pituitary stalk (p = 0.004); and 12.4/9.5Gy to the pituitary gland (p = 0.05). The median overall duration of follow-up after GKS was 6.7 years, with 84 patients(77.7%) whose follow-up was longer than 12 months. The median follow-up time after GKS in patients who developed a new pituitary dysfunction was 79.5 months (6.6 years, SD 3.8 years), and the median follow-up time inpatients with no new insufficiencies was 78.4 months (6.5 years, SD 4 years). Gamma Knife surgery is a safe and effective treatment for patients with residual and recurrent pituitary adenomas. The rate of pituitary insufficiencies after GKS is still lower than that after conventional radiotherapy.Very low radiation doses are directed to the hypothalamus, and thus this structure does not play a major role in the development of pituitary insufficiencies after GKS. The results of this study show that patients in whom the pituitary stalk and pituitary gland receive a high mean point dose are more likely to develop pituitary insufficiencies after GKS than those who receive a lower dose. (DOI: 10.3171/2010.8.GKS10959).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-159
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Volume113 Suppl
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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